KEVIN PACKARD FINDS HARMONY IN FAMILY AND MUSIC
When I first heard Kevin Packard sing, it was at a Nashville Drummers Jam tribute to Stewart Copeland. He was singing Police songs like they were written for him. I didn’t know who he was or where he’d come from, but there was something about his stage presence that told me he belonged there. Fast forward to Douglas Corner, and the first show of Tom Hurst Presents Loud Jamz! There he was again, singing lead vocals, and looking totally comfortable behind the microphone. His passion for music was obvious, and the way he seamlessly worked with the band and backup singers, projecting all of that energy outwards, said he was no Prodigal Son returning from a failed venture. The common denominator for both of those musical events was the strong sense of community they hatched from. The drum community in Nashville is a tight-knit bunch, supporting each other and helping their own in need. Family, you might say. Loud Jamz was inspired by the same principle, with a wider outreach in mind, to showcase musicians and vocalists who don’t always have a stage or a platform for their talent. With each new show, the family grows larger. Kevin is a family man, first and foremost, but his love of music is as ingrained as his heritage. It’s in the balance of the two that he finds harmony and sense of purpose.
Kevin was born in California, but moved to Sandy, Utah at a young age. He said he got his appreciation for music from his sisters. At 15, he started playing drums, and fell in love with the gear that went along with it. It wasn’t long before he was tinkering with every aspect of the drum and its hardware. That passion led to trying other musical instruments. During a two-year LDS mission, he taught himself to play guitar. Wherever he went, at home and in his travels, he made music a part of his life. Returning from his journey, he was enriched by what he’d experienced and inspired to immerse himself in the music scene. He managed a guitar and drum store for awhile, working at putting a band together in his spare time. His dream was to play music as part of a band, and be able to make a living doing what he loved.
In 2000, Kevin made the move from Utah back to California. He settled in Los Angeles, hoping that the music scene there would bring new opportunities for him to play and make a living in marketing and drum design. Turning his love of tinkering into a paycheck, he got a job with manufacturer, Peace Drums. It was a day job that allowed him to continue writing songs, playing with friends, and trying to get a band to take flight. Since 1990, he and Jesse Anderegg have been friends, bandmates off and on, and collaborative partners in music. After the move to L.A., they started a band called Checkpoint Charley. They’d been in multiple bands together, and found that too many strong-minded musicians, with different ideas, can cause a logjam in the creative process. Forming a nucleus with just the two of them, they could make music sound the way they wanted it to and collaborate with as much top talent as possible in the process. In 2005, they released their first album, Songs One Through Twelve. It’s power pop infused with equally powerful harmonies and a bit of 90s grit in a few tunes. It got solid reviews all around and reflects their influences without being an imitation.
As the music industry was changing in the 21st century, the music scene in California was drying up. Kevin found an enticing opportunity with ddrum and made the move to Florida in 2005. That marked the beginning of his travel to China, looking into manufacturing and development opportunities there. It’s a place he still travels to today and says he has grown quite fond of the Chinese people through this experience. On the music front, he was still writing and recording with Jesse and keeping the band together from afar. To satisfy his itch to perform, he played a lot of bistro gigs as a solo acoustic. It wasn’t quite the band experience, but it nourished his desire to sing and play music. Whether at work or at play, Kevin was musically inclined, and being around it was a constant craving. In 2008, he accepted a position at Ludwig Drums in marketing and artist relations. This required a move to Northern Indiana. Ludwig had a corporate office in Elkhart and their focus was on the Nashville market. Kevin had visited Nashville in 2000, when he attended Summer NAMM, and was well aware of the brotherhood of drummers that existed there. After spending six years with Ludwig, putting in 12-13 hour days, he decided that Nashville was the right location to balance his family life with his professional life, and still have ample opportunities to play music.
On January 1, 2014, the Packard family moved to Nashville, and Kevin began work at the family-owned and operated, Pearl Drums. It’s a company run by real drummers. The staff in Nashville is made up of regular touring musicians, and Kevin says it’s a brotherhood of folks with the loyalty of a motorcycle gang. His position there is marketing manager for drums and percussion, but he also has a hand in research and development. He loves being in Nashville, where he can network with local players and build something they like. It’s a creative environment for both the player and the builder. When he took the job with Pearl and settled in Nashville, no one knew he was a musician. His background in the business didn’t account for his playing ability or his vocal talent. When he sang at the Nashville Drummers Jam in May of this year, he says it opened the door to being a musician again. Because of the glut of talent in Nashville, he’d been insecure about his own abilities. He was used to being a behind the scenes supplier, not the guy behind the drum kit or the microphone. His incredible performance on the NDJ stage buoyed his confidence and impressed fellow drummer, and founder of Loud Jamz, Tom Hurst. Tom invited him to sing at the series he was bringing back to the Nashville music scene, where he would have lead vocal duties on several songs, and that was just the beginning.
Kevin is now a regular frontman in the Tom Hurst Presents Loud Jamz series, as well as handling background vocals, playing drums, and acoustic guitar on a few songs at every show. When he gets behind a microphone at center stage, his enormous passion for music can’t help but pour out. His charismatic personality envelops the performance, and everyone in the room is drawn into it. His intense love of music is what drives his exuberance, and he gives his all to the song, his fellow performers, and the audience. On November 30, Kevin Packard and Jesse Anderegg are bringing the unique sound of Checkpoint Charley to the Douglas Corner stage. It’s a dream come true to be performing their original music on a stage in Nashville, and they’ve invited a few of the Loud Jamz musicians to round out the band. Tyson Leslie will be playing keys, Mike Catone on drums, and Steve Cunningham on guitar. Kevin said it’s been about four years since they’ve played as Checkpoint Charley, and this will be the debut of some new songs they’ve written for an upcoming album. The studio recordings feature the drumming of Jim Riley (Rascal Flatts), and guest stars Jon Schmidt (of The Piano Guys), and Ian Fowles (Aquabats) on several tracks. In addition to the new music, the set list will feature songs from their first album, as well as a few Star Wars-themed songs they’ve written over the years.
The band name is as unique as the songs on their first album. Kevin said he chose the name Checkpoint Charley after a visit to Berlin, the site of the location known as Checkpoint Charlie. It was the last point of freedom before entering Soviet-occupied East Germany. When he and his wife visited the site, he said they were struck by the feeling of identity crisis they saw there. He wanted to portray that in the band name when they were making the first album. The change in spelling to ‘Charley’ was done as a reference to an obscure character from the TV show, MASH, named Five O’Clock Charley. The title of the album, Songs One Through Twelve, goes along with the idea of an identity crisis. There is no hint as to what the music will sound like or who the musicians behind it are. It is only in listening to the music, and hearing all the facets of its sound, that you will appreciate its composition. What hit me first was the abundance of lyrics, stories told within the music, and the crystal clear vocals and tight harmonies. The influences I heard in this go back as far as the late 60s and 70s, skipping the self-indulgent era of 80s pop, and grabbing hold of the brighter grit of the early 90s. Through the purity of Kevin’s voice, a kaleidoscopic blending of these sounds produces melodic power pop, with an especially energized delivery. Some of these songs dig a little harder into the instrumentation, leaning on the lead guitar in “Start Screaming,” and exercising a heavy drum beat in “Heroine.” “Speechless” chooses the muse of an acoustic guitar and an angelic sounding choir to deliver a love song that’s way more powerful than the title suggests. It’s an eclectic mix of songs that generate power in the spirit of Jellyfish, using the dynamics of voice and instruments to make storytelling a musical art form.
Kevin Packard may have arrived in Nashville an unknown musician, but his passion for music could not be contained for long. This was the city to turn a love for gear into product development and production, and in turn, the player into a performer. Whether it’s his drum family at Pearl, his musician family at Loud Jamz, or the Packard family at home, he is part of a larger entity, which he fully invests himself in. There’s a purity of purpose in Kevin Packard that has given him a pitch perfect voice, selfless work ethic, and the talent to make music through creative outlets. Music City is the ideal place where love of music and family can blend harmoniously into occupation and life’s work. Kevin’s voice and passion for music are a divine rendering of what family support and a nurturing community can yield. Build it, play it, sing it and they will come.
The reviews are in on Checkpoint Charley’s Songs One Through Twelve….
“Do you think vocal based powerpop a la Jellyfish, with more guitar driven rock such as The Tories and Marvelous 3 sounds like your cup of tea? Then you should put out an invitation to a huge tea party, ‘coz L.A band, Checkpoint Charley, has the cookies. How could anyone resist the City Boy smelling “Cardiac Arrest?!” or the beachparty rocker, “Bellyfish?!”……the list of good songs never ends….But you can play them over and over again without getting tired of hearing them. Listen to the Jelly-harmonies on “Smile” or the bombastic 70s rock a la Elton John and Queen on “Mother Veronica”- melodic heaven! A must for any melodic rock fan!”
“Checkpoint Charley’s Songs One Through Twelve delivers everything pop/rock fans crave – great songs, beautiful harmonies, and hooks for days. Drummer, KEVIN PACKARD (who co-wrote all the songs with Jesse Anderegg) does an excellent job, not only on drums, but also on lead vocals and guitar. Packard’s drumming is rock-solid and right in the pocket, and he never overplays the song. If you’re a fan of the band, Jellyfish, get your hands on this CD. ”
Modern Drummer Magazine
“Checkpoint Charley highlights gorgeous heavenward soaring vocals, soft keyboard washes, lush guitars, and even more angelic vocals! The songs are compelling and musically complex, often taking unexpected turns to surprise ears trained to hear the sameness of modern pop. Other bands that Jellyfish and Tories fans may recognize this reminds us of are Umajets and Tales Untold, for those in the know of these cool, departed bands.”
“As it was with E.F. Hutton, when names like Jellyfish and The Tories are dropped as reference points for a band, people listen. Such is the case with Checkpoint Charley, a quartet whose full-bodied harmonies, dynamic melodies, and tantalizing chord changes will remind listeners of the aforementioned pop music legends. The Tories influence on Songs One Through Twelve is in large part the work of keyboardist, engineer, and co-producer, Stuart Brawley, who also twirled the knobs on The Tories album, The Upside Of Down, but credit should also be given to singer/songwriter, Kevin Packard, whose lead vocals have a similar timbre and strength of emotion as those of Tories’ main man, Steve Bertrand, as well as to co-songwriter, Jesse Anderegg. Songs like the anthemic, “Free,” “Bellyfish,” (very cute, guys), and “Heroine” are just what the doctor ordered, while “Cardiac Arrest” has the sort of whimsy that Spilt Milk fans will appreciate. Other standouts include the descending-chord ballad, “Another Veronica,” the sprightly “Go Away,” and the very pretty “Dreamer.” The overall production of the album is a standout as well, sounding very much like a huge budget, major label job when it obviously wasn’t. Songs One Through Twelve is a very good beginning which will make fans of the genre clamor for songs thirteen through twenty-four.”
“WOW!! You definitely won’t want to miss this one – destined to be a future classic! GREAT!!!”
Kool Kat Musik
” The harmonic ideas are unexpected but not self-indulgent. The lyrics are easy to follow, yet not spoonfeeding the simpleton. The harmonies are sweet but not sappy. The songs wear their influences on their sleeves, but not in the least bit derivative. It’s what I hoped Roger Manning’s new record could have been. It’s what I hoped Umajet’s Demolotion could have been. It’s what I think Steve Bertrand could still do if he really applied himself. What I’m saying is, THEY HAVE ACCOMPLISHED IT! It’s the perfect pop/rock record.”
Nashville Session Great
“…there are some albums you just love from the start and they get better with every spin. Such is the case with this debut from Checkpoint Charley. I honestly can’t remember the last time a disc made this immediate an impact of the future love affair that is seemingly impending. It might be too early in ownership to declare this the album of 2005, but all indications if it has any legs, is that this is certainly the one to beat.”
“4 Stars. Songs One Through Twelve is a very good album. Hope it’s not too long before another album is due, I’m getting hungry for more!”
-Paul Martin, Shindig! Magazine
Sample the sound of Checkpoint Charley…..
You can purchase Checkpoint Charley, Songs One Through Twelve, on iTunes:
Black and white photo of Kevin Packard is courtesy of Ronn Dunnett.
Individual color photo of Kevin Packard is courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.
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